Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: We like 'em fresh, young, and green -- chickpeas that is.
Frequently purchased dried in a bag, or swimming in a can, it’s easy to forget that chickpeas were once actually growing on a plant. The fruits of plants in the legume family, (like romano beans and all types of peas), are commonly referred to as pods. Chickpeas’s tiny pods (2, below) look like a miniature version of edamame, and inside each pod you’ll find one or two light green chickpeas (1, below).
In the United States, chickpeas are mainly grown in California, northwestern states (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), and more central northern states (Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota). But you’ll start seeing them in high-end grocery stores, ethnic markets (try Middle Eastern, Asian, and Mexican grocers), and farmers markets starting this month and into the summer. If you stumble across them in colder months, they are likely making their way to you from Mexico.
More: Pick up another kind of Chickpea -- the vegan magazine that everyone should read.
Unlike fava beans, there’s generally no need for peeling once you’ve shelled fresh chickpeas, but Mourad Lahlou recommends testing a few after blanching just to be sure: “If you’re getting more chewy peel than creamy meat, you should peel the blanched beans.” It needn't be an arduous process -- spread the blanched beans on a tea towel, fold it over on itself, and gently rub to loosen their skins, just as you would to peel hazelnuts.
Once you’ve had your fill of shelling the fresh chickpeas over your sink and popping them in your mouth, try some of these ideas:
- PistachioDoughnut likes to put them in empanadas.
- Try steaming them and adding to a salad with zucchini and feta, like Fairmount_market does.
- Panfusine steams them too, then stir-fries them in traditional South Indian style. She also pairs fresh chickpeas with fennel.
- "You can toss the chickpeas still in the pods with some oil and spices and sauté until the pods are beginning to blacken in a hot pan or skillet -- eat like you would edamame," says petitbleu. Or skip the pany-fry, and try deep-frying them as Thomas Keller does.
- Selmazebra turns them into hummus. He’s in good company: Chef Cal Peternell at Chez Panisse does the same, and also leaves out the tahini, finding it too heavy for the fresh chickpeas.
- Threefresheggs offers a rather unusual “recipe for success with 3 pounds of fresh chickpeas: Enclose in appropriate packaging, affix with label, mail to me via overnight service." Can't hurt to try!
Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use fresh chickpeas?
Photos by James Ransom